ISIS Exploits User-Friendly Encryption Apps to Plan and Recruit

March 21, 2016

The article on Discovery News titled ISIS Taps Dark Web, Encryption Apps to Coordinate discusses the news that ISIS orchestrated the Paris terrorist attacks using encrypted messaging apps. The big social media companies like Google and Facebook enable an encryption method they call “perfect forward secrecy,” which lacks any sort of master key or backdoor. The article explains other systems,

“Extremist groups are even using messaging services found on Play Station 4 gaming consoles, a favorite of young male jihadis who particularly like “Call of Duty,” according to Steven Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle Eastern Media Research Institute, a group that monitors social media by extremist groups…Of particular concern is Telegram, a relatively new instant messaging app designed in Russia that has recently been upgraded to allow more secure communications by groups.”

The article points out that most of these techniques are intuitive, designed for regular people. Their exploitation by ISIS is due to their user-friendliness and the difficulty of interception. Rather than trying to crack the codes, some analysts believe that reverting to good old-fashioned methods like spies and informants may be the best answer to ISIS’s use of Western technology.


Chelsea Kerwin, March 21, 2016

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

The Gameification of Enterprise Software

March 18, 2016

Stop the presses! Enterprise software is becoming more like interfaces for consumer software. Some enterprise software systems include game like interfaces.

What makes these startling factoids interesting is that individuals working in enterprises seem to have formed the survey sample.

Navigate to “Survey: How UX Is Transforming Enterprise Software” for an amazing glimpse into the remarkable research conducted, it appears, by an outfit called Tech Pro. The authors of this write up do not include sample demographics, sample size, survey methodology. I found it fairly easy to identify some possible flaws in the survey data because the information presented is not really about user interface or, sorry, UX. I pulled three findings from the article. Ponder these brilliant insights.l

Anyone who has checked out interfaces to enterprise software tuned for mobile devices knows that the much loved green screen is not too popular.

Professionals working in enterprises report that 69 percent of the respondent use enterprise software. No word on what type of software the other 31 percent of the respondents use. Perhaps the fact one uses software provided by an enterprise to those working for the enterprise do not use software at all?

Want another stunner? Check this finding:

Databases, storage and human resources were the most popular business functions towards which companies are using or considering enterprise software, however mobility was also cited as a strong category for future deployments.

In 2016 enterprises use databases, storage devices, and “human resources”. I did not know this. I thought that those working in enterprises rode unicorns and communicated by tossing fairy dust in the air to form glittering smoke signal-like utterances.

I loved this finding too:

Difficult [sic] of implementation, problems with/inability to integrate with enterprise applications and poor vendor support/tutorials/training were three most commonly chosen reasons for dissatisfaction with enterprise software.

Difficult I assume is preferable to the word difficulty. I thought that people who did not know how to use software were thrilled with sitting in training classes learning how to perform a link analysis using data pulled from an IBM AS/400 running Ironworks. The slashes are really helpful too.

If the summary entices you, you may, gentle reader, request the entire report. Just follow the link in the source article to the December 2015 study. I elected to admire the excellence of the write up. Too much good stuff in one sitting is bad for my mental digestion.

Stephen E Arnold, March 18, 2016

Ebay Is Sold Structured Data

January 19, 2016

PayPal and eBay split in 2015 and many people thought it was a poor mistake on eBay’s part.  However, eBay has recouped any potential loses by record profits and more than 159 million sellers.  Channel Advisor explains that one of the reasons eBay has grown so much is due to its incorporation of structured data and its importance for organic search in the article, “eBay Moves Towards Structured Data-And Why It Matters.”

As an avid eBay buyer and seller, I have been impressed with the new changes in eBay’s demand for structured data.  In the past, if you wanted to find anything on eBay you had to go directly to the Web site and dig through results.  Sometimes you could find results on Google or another search engine, but these were usually cached auctions.  Since the switchover, eBay listings are prominent within Google’s search results.  What is even better is how accurate they are!

EBay has turned to structured data as a way to compete with Amazon.  While this is beneficial in the long run, it forces sellers to refocus their strategies.  The article gives some great tips on how to improve your listings for the best organic search effectiveness.  What eBay is demanding now is item specifics so items are placed in the right categories and also helps buyers make more informed decisions.  Product identifiers are now very important and mandatory in many categories.  These include item specifics such as UPCs, ISBNs, MPNs, GTINs, and more.  The goal with all this extra information is to increase visibility in Google and eBay search results.

“In addition to the above benefits, adding identifiers will give you:

  • The ability to match your item with a product from the more robust eBay catalogue
  • More accurate pricing guidance when you list your items
  • Trending price alerts — when your listings are priced lower than the trending price

EBay suggests adding identifiers even if they’re not yet required for your category – doing so will earn you an early competitive edge.”

EBay used to be the one-stop shopping destination online, but Amazon has quickly stolen that title from them.  With more detailed listings and visibility in Google, eBay is sure to win back customers.


Whitney Grace, January 19, 2016
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph



Scientific Research Has Turned into a Safe Space

December 31, 2015

The Internet is a cold, cruel place, especially if you hang out in the comments section on YouTube, eBay forums, social media, and 4chan.  If you practice restraint and limit your social media circles to trusted individuals, you can surf the Internet without encountering trolls and haters.  Some people do not practice common sense, so they encounter many hateful situations on the Internet and as a result they demand “safe spaces.”  Safe spaces are where people do not encounter anything negative.

Safe spaces are stupid.  Period.  What is disappointing is that the “safe space” and “only positive things” has made its way into the scientific community according to Nature in the article, “‘Novel, Amazing, Innovative’: Positive Words On The Rise In Science Papers.”

The University Medical Center in the Netherlands studied the use of positive and negative words in the titles of scientific papers and abstracts from 1974-2014 published on the medical database PubMed.  The researchers discovered that positive words in titles grew from 2% in 1974 to 17.5% in 2014.  Negative word usage increased from 1.3% to 2.4%, while neutral words did not see any change.  The trend only applies to research papers, as the same test was run using published books and it showed little change.

“The most obvious interpretation of the results is that they reflect an increase in hype and exaggeration, rather than a real improvement in the incidence or quality of discoveries… The findings “fit our own observations that in order to get published, you need to emphasize what is special and unique about your study,” he says. Researchers may be tempted to make their findings stand out from thousands of others — a tendency that might also explain the more modest rise in usage of negative words.”

While there is some doubt associated with the findings, because it was only applied to PubMed.  The original research team thinks that it points to much larger problem, because not all research can be “innovative” or “novel.”  The positive word over usage is polluting the social, psychological, and biomedical sciences.

Under the table, this really points to how scientists and researchers are fighting for tenure.  What would this mean for search engine optimization if all searches and descriptions had to have a smile?  Will they even invent a safe space filter?

Whitney Grace, December 31, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph




Getting Smart About Cutting the Cable Cord

December 21, 2015

A few years ago, I read an article about someone who was fed up with streaming content because he wanted new shows and access to all the channels so they resubscribed to cable.  I have to admit the easiest thing to do would be to pay a monthly cable bill and shell out additional fees for the premiere channels.  The only problem is that cable and extra channels are quite expensive.  It has since become easier to cut the cord.

One of the biggest problems viewers face is finding specific and new content.  Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, and Amazon Prime are limited with licenses and their individual content and having to search each one is time consuming.  Even worse is trying to type out a series name using a remote control instead of a keyboard.  Technology to the rescue!

The Verge talks about “Yahoo’s New App Is A TV Guide For Cord Cutters” called Yahoo Video Guide that allows viewers to search by a name and instantly watch it.

“Whenever users find what they want to watch, they can click a button to “Stream Now,” and the app will automatically launch a subscription service that hosts the film. If the program isn’t available online, users can buy it, instead.”

The coolest feature is that if viewers want to channel surf all they do so with GIFs.  The viewer picks a GIF that fits their mood and the app will sort out content from there.

Finally, all those moving images have a different function than entertaining reddit users.

Whitney Grace, December 21, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

How Semantic Technology Will Revolutionize Education

November 27, 2015

Will advanced semantic technology return us to an age of Socratic education? In a guest post at Forbes, Declara’s Nelson González suggests that’s exactly where we’re heading; the headline declares, “The Revolution Will Be Semantic: Web3.0 and the Emergence of Collaborative Intelligence.” In today’s world, stuffing a lot of facts into each of our heads is much less important than the ability to find and share information effectively. González writes:

“Most importantly, Web3.0 is opening paths to collaborative intelligence. Isolated individual learning is increasingly irrelevant to organizational health, which is measured largely through group metrics. Today, public and private institutions live or die based on the efficiency, innovation, and impact of corporate efforts.”

The post points to content curators like Flipboard and Pinterest as examples of such collective adaptive  capacity, then looks at effects this shift is already beginning to have on education. González gives a couple of examples he’s seen around the world, and discusses ways collaboration software like his company’s can facilitate new ways of learning. See the article for details. He writes:

“Web 3.0 is unleashing a kind of ‘back to the future’ innovation, the digital democratization of what élites have always practiced: deep learning through imitative apprenticeship, humanistic personalization via real-time observation, and mastery through crowdsourced validation. Silicon Valley is thus enabling us all to become the sons and daughters of Socrates.”

Launched in 2012, Declara set out to build better bridges between online sources of knowledge. The company is based in Palo Alto, California.

Cynthia Murrell, November 27, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Expect Disruption from Future Technology

November 13, 2015

A dystopian future where technology has made humanity obsolete is a theme older than the Industrial Revolution.  History has proven that while some jobs are phased out thanks to technology more jobs are created by it, after all someone needs to monitor and make the machines.  As technology grows and makes computing systems capable of reason, startups are making temporary gigs permanent jobs, and 3D printing makes it possible to make any object, the obsolete humanity idea does not seem so far-fetched.  Kurzweilai shares a possible future with “The SAP Future Series: Digital Technology’s Exponential Growth Curve Foretells Avalanche Of Business Disruption.”

While technology has improved lives of countless people, it is disrupting industries.  These facts prove to be insightful into how disruptive:

  • In 2015 Airbnb will become the largest hotel chain in the world, launched in 2008, with more than 850,000 rooms, and without owning any hotels.
  • From 2012 to 2014, Uber consumed 65% of San Francisco’s taxi business.
  • Advances in artificial intelligence and robotics put 47% of US employment — over 60 million jobs — at high risk of being replaced in the next decade.
  • 10 million new autonomous vehicles per year may be entering US highways by 2030.
  • Today’s sensors are 1 billion times better — 1000x lighter, 1000x cheaper, 1000x the resolution — than only 40 years ago. By 2030, 100 trillion sensors could be operational worldwide.
  • DNA sequencing cost dropped precipitously — from $1 billion to $5,000 —  in 15 years. By 2020 could be $0.01.
  • In 2000 it took $5,000,000 to launch an internet start-up. Today the cost is less than $5,000.

Using a series of videos, SAP explains how disruption will change the job market, project management, learning, and even predicting future growth.  Rather than continuing the dystopia future projections, SAP positions itself to offer hope and ways to adapt for your success.  Humanity will be facing huge changes because of technology in the near future, but our successful ability to adapt always helps us evolve.

3DWhitney Grace, November 13, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph



SAS: Predictive Analytics for Every One. Yes, Every One

October 19, 2015

Forget your university statistics course. Ignore the thrill of secondary school calculus. A new world has arrived. The terraformer is SAS, the statistics outfit everyone knows and loves.

I read “SAP Predictive Analytics Software Overview,” and was delighted to learn that I can now have on my desktop (sorry, mobile device users):

  • Perform data analyses, including time series forecasting, outlier detection, trend analysis, classification analysis, segmentation analysis and affinity analysis.
  • Create visualizations and analyze data through the use of scatter matrix charts, parallel coordinates, cluster charts and decision trees.
  • Use the R open source language for statistical analysis.
  • Perform in-memory data mining for large-volume data analysis.

What, you may ask, is a user to do if the underpinnings of these operations are not understood?

My hunch is that for the ease of use and point and click functions of tried and true SAS plus KXEN technology is that you may find yourself in need of a specialist.

Knowledge of SAS conventions, R, and possibly third party libraries or Hadoop may come in handy.

I am delighted that SAS, founded in 1976 is delivering innovations. Unfortunately to make predictive analytics deliver fresh bread in an optimized way will require a grasp of statistical procedures, the ability to validate input data sets, and manipulate the options presented.

In short, statistics and math skills coupled with the fundamentals of data analysis should do nicely to help you get the most from this new bundle from SAS. No word on pricing.

Stephen E Arnold, October 19, 2015

Bodleian Library Gets Image Search

August 3, 2015

There is a lot of free information on the Internet, but the veracity is always in question.  While libraries are still the gateway of knowledge, many of their rarer, more historic works are buried in archives.  These collections offer a wealth of information that is often very interesting.  The biggest problem is that libraries often lack the funds to scan archival collections and create a digital library.  Oxford University’s Bodleian Library, one of the oldest libraries in Europe, has the benefit of funds and an excellent collection to share with the world.

Digital Bodleian boasts over 115,179 images as of writing this article, stating that it is constantly updating the collection.  The online library takes a modern approach to how users interact with the images by taking tips from social media.  Not only can users browse and search the images randomly or in the pre-sorted collections, they can also create their own custom libraries and sharing the libraries with friends.

It is a bold move for a library, especially for one as renowned as Bodleian, to embrace a digital collection as well as offering a social media-like service.  In my experience, digital library collections are bogged down by copyright, incomplete indices or ontologies, and they lack images to perk a users’ interest.  Digital Bodleian is the opposite of many of its sister archives, but another thing I have noticed is that users are not too keen on joining a library social media site.  It means having to sign up for yet another service and also their friends probably aren’t on it.

Here is an idea, how about a historical social media site similar to Pinterest that pulls records from official library archives?  It would offer the ability to see the actual items, verify information, and even yield those clickbait top ten lists.

Whitney Grace, August 3, 2015
Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

Facebook Strokes Brain’s Pleasure Center

July 21, 2015

Why do people like using Facebook?  It is a question that researchers have asked since Facebook premiered in 2004.  It was assumed to be a passing fad like prior social networks, including Myspace and Live Journal, but over a decade later Facebook is still going strong without a sign of stopping. decided to answer the question using an informative infographic and many research studies, check out “Why Do People Like, Share, And Comment On Facebook?”

Apparently Facebook taps the pleasure center of the brain, because when users actively share or “like” content they feel like they are directly engaging with a community.  The infographic also explains that posting status updates relieves loneliness and increases a user’s virtual empathy.  While “likes” are a quick form of communication, comments still seem to be the favorite way to interact on the social network:

“Moira Burke, who is studying 1,200 Facebook users in an ongoing experiment, has found that personal messages are more satisfying to receivers than the one-click communication of likes.”

Direct, more personal types of communication are still preferred by users.  Facebook also is appealing, because users feel like they are getting something in return as well.  They get discounts or coupons for their favorite brands, participate in contests, receive updates, and get individualized advertisements.

There are several other studies highlighting in the infographic, but the bottom line is that people are gaining a high level of personal interactivity that they can share with their friends and family.  Facebook is an integral part of the Internet, because it connects users organically and appeals to a deep, psychological need to interact with other humans.

Whitney Grace, July 21, 2015

Sponsored by, publisher of the CyberOSINT monograph

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